This guest post was written by Heather Fink, a Career Development intern and a graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program here at Northeastern.
Conduct research to fill a need at a company, not just an open position!
Everyone knows that in this economy the job market is competitive. To stand out from other applicants, you should aim to fill a need at the company rather than just an open position. Conducting research allows you to present skills in your résumé and cover letter that meet the unique needs of the company. Research also allows you to tailor your answers in the interview to how your past experience relates to projects they are currently working on. The only way to figure out the needs of the company and what value you add is to conduct research!
The Company Website
Start your research with the company’s website. Usually there is an “About Us” section or a “News and Press” section providing information about recent accomplishments in the company. This section should also include a mission statement about the company’s goals that will help you understand the culture. This will also tell you about recent and future directions for the company. You should also pay attention to the staff links such as “our team” or “our staff.” Once seeing a list of current staff, you can search for those employee’s on LinkedIn.
Start by looking at profiles of current employees, especially someone with the same job title you are applying for. This will give you a sense of what the job will be like as well as skills desired by the employer.
When conducting your research you should also be assessing whether or not you would be a good fit at the company. LinkedIn can be used to see how long past employees have stayed, if there is a high turnover rate, there may be low employee satisfaction or budget issues. Furthermore, your supervisor can greatly impact your job satisfaction at a company. If you know the name of your potential supervisor, read their LinkedIn profile to learn about their past experience and recommendations prior colleagues have written about them.
Google is a great tool to find information about a company. Googling the company name will likely present results about recent articles published, information about new products, recent advancements, presentations, trade shows and conferences. Utilizing the “News” tab will provide you with information about press releases from the company, financial analyst reports as well as other information.
Don’t forget you can combine research strategies; you can use Google to find people on LinkedIn! If you Google the company name and the title of the position you are applying for, you may find the prior employee that worked at the company and read their profile to see what types of tasks were requested of her/ him.
Lastly, Google can be used to research a company’s competitors. If you type in the company name and then “competition” results may yield websites that provide a list of competitors. Search results from www.finance.yahoo.com, wikinvest.com, www.hoover.com, and www.corporatewatch.com are all reputable websites for this information.
Glassdoor is another website that job hunters often forget to utilize. The website can provide you with information about the company culture and potential interview questions. Smaller companies may not have as much information on this site as larger more well-known companies, but it can still be a great resource. The site includes information about the size of the company, the year it was founded, the industry, awards, information including recent news about the company, salary information, reviews about the company from prior/ current employees and even potential interview questions! Get access to this site via the Career Development website, but choosing Online Resources and scrolling to the bottom of the page.
What does the information you found tell you about the company? If there has been a lot of turnover in staff is that due to growth in the company or dissatisfaction of their employees? How does this company compare to their competitors? What are the challenges the company faces and how can you add value to decrease these challenges? Remember if you want to be a competitive job applicant it isn’t enough to just fill the spot, market yourself by sharing how you will add value beyond the average applicant. Demonstrating your understanding of the company’s needs shows your commitment to add value.
Heather Fink is a former Career Assistant at Northeastern Career Development with a passion for networking and empowering others. She has worked at Northeastern Career Development for two years and has presented over 50 workshops. Currently she is pursuing her graduate degree in College Student Development Counseling. Follow Heather on Linkedin at www.linkedin.com/in/HeatherFink and Twitter @CareerCoachHF.